DJ Spock

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Back In The Days...

I first discovered house music in the fine clubs of Nottingham in the late 1980's, the 'Summer of Love' and the flowering of Acid House. Venues such as The Kool Kat (The Garage), The Club, The Hippo and Venus played a vibrant blend of musics to a happy crowd. The first time I heard "Ride The Rhythm" by This Ain't Chicago, with its analogue filter-swept basslines, I was converted; for me this new scene was the natural progression from the electronic music I'd listened to for years fused with exhilarating syncopated dance beats. Later the many warehouse parties and underground events (including the excellent Aqua House in a swimming pool!) added exciting developments to the new culture.

My first appearance as DJ Spock was in 1991, at The Marquis of Granby in the small village of Bamford in Derbyshire, accompanying my friends' band The Cliffs of Insanity with licks and samples flown in between songs from the decks. A surreal mixture of techno, rap and experimental music followed the gig; the event was well-received, and I was hooked.

[ Karmatosed logo ]

[ Karmatosed and Gaia flyer ] When I moved to Hertfordshire to attend University, my interest continued, eventually meeting up with a few like-minded souls, all longing for music and clubs that we knew were possible, but just weren't happening in the area outside London.

[ Decompression @ The Living Room flyer ] So in early 1994 we set up our own sound system, a group of DJs and artists in St. Albans called Karmatosed. We never owned our own rig, but hired an awesome Cerwin Vega PA, which certainly moved some air. We painted our own backdrops and decked out venues and house/garden parties with camouflage netting and lights and smoke. It was great fun, and nobody else was doing it, so we got quite successful. Sadly, I never owned my own decks, but practised at friends' houses. One of our early venues was destroyed by fire, but I managed to acquire a piano from the ruins!

[ Canopus Percussion Ensemble flyer ] My broad musical upbringing led me to experiment with incorporating all kinds of music along with more traditional dance music. I considered it my duty to show people the roots of the new dance music, mixing it up with electronic and ambient classics and even African beats. As chief navigator, DJ Spock plotted a course through uncharted realms of the musical universe. My favourite slot was playing four-hour ambient sets at dawn after a long night of partying, a soothing sonic soup to calm the mind as people drifted off to sleep.

[ Decompression flyer ] The best venue we played at was The Beckett Suite at Batchwood Hall, nextdoor to the large and glitzy KISS nightclub. Our backdrops and presentation transformed the place, with films projected in the gardens, and many guest DJ's and live acts including Earth Leakage Trip. I also did percussion sets with Craig Morrison and The Canopus Percussion Ensemble, and we often played drums along with the DJ's, competing with 5kW PA systems on the dancefloor!

[ Babble and Karmatosed flyer ] The hard work paid off, and our Decompression nights became well-known and put St. Albans on the clubbing map. We also played away matches with Babble in Leicester as well as parties in London, Brighton and Reading.

Our moment of triumph came at Decompression XXIII in November 1995, a few weeks after the opening night of a cool new club suite upstairs. DJ Spock was launching into a set at midnight to a packed house with a mix of the Star Trek theme, followed by Gustav Holst's "Venus The Bringer of Love" mixed with deep underground detroit techno. It looked like we were heading for the stars... when tragically a bouncer came up to the DJ booth and told me: "We have a fire in the building. Turn off the music and get everyone outside." Not again!

[ Decompression flyer ] So there followed utter pandemonium as 300 eager clubbers were funnelled out through the doors, only to see the roof of the building, an old country house, being licked by flames and smoke. I was terrified that my records were going to melt (!), but luckily the fire was contained in one wing and our gear was untouched. But that put an end to our nights at that venue, and we never really found anywhere as good.

[ Karmatosed and Blue flyer ] Some all-night parties took place at The Living Room in Hemel Hempstead, with live PA's from The Advent and others, but the crowd was fragmented and the atmosphere wasn't so good.

I eventually gave up DJ-ing in 1996, as I was getting more involved with playing acoustic music with The Watford Percussion Project and The Canopus Percussion Ensemble. I'd become bored with the techno music scene, which had sadly become more focused on the drugs instead of the music. So I left Karmatosed to forge my own path, preferring to play my own music than that of other people. However, the music still calls me back - those classic Roland 909/808/606/303 sounds of techno done right... I often get cravings to go out and buy a couple of Technics SL1210's and get into it again, who knows...

2003-06-30 Decompression Reunion

[ Mental backdrop by Sully from Karmatosed | DJ Spock @ Decompression2003 | Spock @ Decompression2003 | DJ Spock @ Decompression2003 | Sully's cosmic backdrops | DJs C-Lab and 00-Sven @ Decompression2003 | DJ Rubec @ Decompression2003 ] A chance meeting sparked a conversation about a Decompression reunion, which fitted in nicely with my turntabular longings. And so it came to pass, to be held in The Monday Club at The Horn, St Albans, on Monday 30th June 2003 from 8pm till midnight. The lineup was yours truly, followed by 00-Sven, Evian Trax and then Rubec to finish, each playing an hour-long set. We kept the tunes pre-1997 for a genuine reminiscence experience. I was on first (photographed here by Beardo and Ian Gregory), mixing an uplifting blend of classic techno, progressive and experimental deep house and Basic Channel-type minimalist grooves, with some surprises. A warmly received night, which got us thinking... Hmmmm: 2nd September 2004 will be Decompression's tenth birthday!

2003-07-26 All in a night's work play

[ Spock @ Chris Carter's party ] Chris asked me to play for his housewarming party. Despite all his friends being DJs, he thought he'd better ask me to avoid them all squabbling; I was honoured to accept such a mission. I turned up with three cubes full of records (visible to my right in the picture) ready for a long night... We set up his studio monitors and hifi speakers with a nice out of phase extra rear speaker arrangement that rocked the house at club volume. For sources we had a pair of Technics 1210 Mk IIs, a DJ CD player and a DAT machine with some mixes I'd made with my 4 track; a second DAT deck was used for recording. I began my set at 9pm on Saturday night as the first guests arrived. I didn't leave the decks until 5am the next morning, and only then because the host was horizontal on the sofa! A joyous 8-hour continuous voyage of uplifting grooves, trip hop, world music, AfroRock, jazz, funk, progressive, house and techno, with a cunning mix of housed-up Eighties classics thrown in for good measure. Top tune of the night was surely EDIKANFO's "Blinking Eyes" (AfroRock produced by Brian Eno!) which set the place alight ;-)

2003-10-20 Re:Born Again Christians

[ DJ Spock @ The Monday Club | DJ Spock in motion | DJ Spock in action | 'In your hearts, not in the charts' | DJ Spock bathed in letters | DJ Spock in gas mask ]DJ Spock in action again at The Monday Club on 20th October 2003, photographed by Ian Gregory. This set was entitled "Re:Born Again Christians", as it was played at The Horn Reborn, and included various gems from the past twenty years of techno, mixed with some ancient and modern hymns electro and breakbeat styled grooves from Christian Carter and Cristian Vogel. The entire set was performed wearing a gas mask (not so easy to see what you're doing!), in honour of DJ Spike who I'd witnessed playing at Uni back in 1991 wearing a full flying suit.

2007-12-31 New Year Party at mine

After a few years yearning for turntable action, I had a party at mine, hopefully the first of many...

DJ Spock - available for weddings, funerals, surrealist parties...

I sadly no longer have DJ turntables nor a P.A., but will gladly play music for you if you can provide a sound system. I'd need either two Technics SL-1210's and a mixer, or a laptop running VLC with a mouse. Tell me what genres of music you'd like, but don't expect Robbie Williams or The Birdie Song!

[ Decompression flyer ] [ Decompression flyer ]

     __   ___   ___   __  | /    Live Long and Prosper
    (__` |   \ /   \ /  ` |{
    .__) |___/ \___/ \__, | \       Die With Honour

Artwork, flyers and backdrops by Sully, Tony, Hansi, Stevie B. and the Eco Grafix Collective ©1995-1999

© copyright Malcolm Smith 2002-10-14 - last updated 2015-06-05 - links verified 2004-05-25